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Force of Dada?s will is the mark of a true champion

Ganguly's 51 was more a defining knock because of the general state of Indian cricket at the moment, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2006 01:55 IST

In a different age, a different time, a different game, a man who changed the way the world of sport and the world beyond that looked at itself made a statement. "Champions aren't made in gyms," he said. "Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."

Muhammad Ali, that remarkably unselfconscious legend, was talking about himself but he summed up the making of a champion quite beautifully. Through the ages, before Ali and after him, a certain select, blessed few have had the skill and also found within themselves the will, the heart and the courage to withstand pressure and circumstances and redefine the moment and often, themselves.

On Saturday at the Wanderers, Sourav Ganguly did just that. And though he lasted only an hour for his 25 when India batted second, it was his unconquered 51 in the first innings that was crucial to India.

With Ganguly there, India closed their first essay for a robust 249, much more than they thought they would first get at stumps in Friday's fading light at 156-5, with Jaffer, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman all back in the hut. As his team-mates stood up and applauded, you had to wonder what was going through his mind.

Ganguly's half-century was worth much more than just 51 and he and everyone watching knew it. In a sense, it was a more defining knock than his 144 in Brisbane three years ago. Not just because of the incredible pressure he was under to show that he still had it in him to stand there and fight with the best. Or the intense public scrutiny the man has been under ever since the sordid saga with Greg Chappell began over a year ago in this part of the world. Or even India's condition at that point of the game.

It was also a more defining knock because of the general state of Indian cricket at the moment. Indian cricket, especially the batting, has been in the middle of a devastating low for a while now and has been desperately waiting for someone, sometime, to stand up and make a difference.

Ganguly, who walked into this team knowing he was probably unwanted and very unsure of his reception, has answered that battle cry splendidly till now. In the tour game at Potchefstroom, his own 83 and his early shepherding of Irfan Pathan was vital, because without it, India could well have lost that match. That knock too was under tremendous pressure but this test, one of determination and skill on a lively wicket, was far, far greater.

And the man whose epitaph has been written a hundred times showed once more that it is idiocy to ever underestimate him. To borrow Ali's words again, "Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even."

This was nowhere near an even contest when this game began but Ganguly's inspirational innings has probably more than evened the odds. For himself and his country.

First Published: Dec 17, 2006 00:38 IST